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charms of a lady, to be of this number. But even this is a conceit,
She that can strike the best invention dead,
Was not Davenant
Do not couple the author of Gondibert with Cleveland. You will find more beautiful imagery, more materials for poetical thought in the works of Davenant, than in a hundred volumes of modern rhymes. He abounds in picturesque phrases, the curiosa felicitas of a true poet. Faction is called 66 the hectic fever of a court;" Wrath, the “ quiet child of Pride;" Echo is “the Sentinel of Nature;" Fame “ the eternal Chorus," to declare to posterity illustrious deeds; Sunset, “ the faint decays of light.” Sleep is a very unpromising theme for originality, but see how Davenant raises his description : It loves the cottage, and from court abstains,
It stills the seaman though the storm be high ; Frees the griev'd captive in his closest chains, Stops Want's loud mouth, and blinds the treacherous
spy. Any small adventurer in song might have written
the first part; the beginning of the last line stamps
The second book opens with an animated sketch of Verona at daybreak. How solemn and impressive is the flow of the verse! An amphitheatre which has controll'd
Unheeded conquests of advancing Age, Winds which have made the trembling world look old, And the fierce tempest of the Gothic
rage. This great Flaminius did in youth erect,
Where cities sat to see whole armies play Death's serious part What delights me above all in Gondibert, is the thoughtful wisdom, the reflective manner of the writer. His thoughts awaken thoughts. Well by his precepts may we punish strife,
Whose pity knew that Famine, Plague, and Time, Are enemies enough to human life,
None need o'ercharge Death's quiver with a crime. How much philosophy is compressed into this brief sentence,
Truth which slowly follows Fame. These beauties may not please every taste; some readers do not value gold if they are obliged to dig for it: but Gondibert presents other charms. Take a picture of an unfrequented library: For a deep dust, which Time does softly shed,
Where only Time does come, their covers bear.
Or this most lovely comparison of the difference between the pure harmony of the sacred Scriptures, and the Commentaries written on them
In these Heaven's holy fire does vainly burn,
Nor warms, nor lights, but is in sparkles spent; Where froward Authors with disputes have torn
The Garment, seamless as the firmament. My own opinion of Gondibert was strengthened the other day by a remark of Pope*. He regarded it as an imperfect poem, if viewed as a whole, but admired the uncommon beauty and originality of parts. He seems, however, not to have done justice to the versification of Davenant; who, while borrowing conceits from Donne, adapted thenı to a far
Gray would have been pleased with the sentiments of two other kindred spirits. “Davenant,” says Mr. Mitford in his excellent Life of Gray, “is a poet who approaches nearer to Shakspeare in the beauty of his descriptions, the tenderness of his thoughts, the seriousness of his feeling, and the wildness of his fancy." “ The stanzas in the Gnomica, (writes Dr. Southey to Sir E. Bridges,) might pass for a fragment of Gondibert; they have just that tone of thoughtful feeling which distinguishes that poem above all others, and owing to which (faulty as in many respects it is) I never take it up without deriving fresh pleasure from it, and being always unwilling to lay it aside. A little, I think, he learned from Sir John Davies,-more from Lord Brooke, who is the most thoughtful of all poets. Davenant had less strength of mind or morals (as his conversion to popery proves), but more feeling; with him the vein ended. You trace a little of it in Dryden's
but not later."
sweeter strain of music. Donne had no qualifications for a poet, except strong sense, great erudition, and a lively ingenuity, which Dryden has taught us to call wit.
Our poetical fathers showed us how to write sweetly, as well as powerfully.
Yet critics persist in regarding Waller as one of the earliest improvers of our language. Mr. Waller, says Atterbury, bound up his thoughts better, and in a cadence more agreeable to the verse he wrote in ; so that wherever the natural stops of that were, he continued the little breakings of the sense so as to fall in with them. But this eulogy claims for him more than his due. His highest praise consists in having reduced our versification to a more perfect uniformity of melody. Like Denham, he polished a little; but he invented nothing. You will find in these verses no charm, either of rhythm or of diction, unknown to their predecessors. The full beauty and majesty of the hexameter had been already drawn out by numerous writers, who flourished at the early part of the seventeenth century. I could show you the very pauses, afterwards introduced by Pope with such success into
his compositions. Indeed, I might support my assertion from a little volume, by Dr. Henry King, which appeared about the middle of that century. His allusion to the happiness of the blest is quite perfect : Where true joys reign, which like their day shall last; Those never clouded, nor that overcast. I confess there is a natural and unaffected harmony in the poetry of that age, an artlessness of artoften inimitable. King, better known as a divine, enjoyed a picturesque taste. The portrait of youth is very pretty
When he goes proudly laiden with the fruit,
Which health, or strength, or beauty contribute. So is the thought upon Pygmalion :
Whilst he to gaze and court it was content,
And as the Paphian Queen, by her grief's power,
* Let me add in a note the affecting Elegy
ON TWO CHILDREN DYING OF ONE DISEASE,
AND BURIED IN ONE GRAVE.
BROUGHT forth in sorrow,
and bred up in care,